This article originally appeared in my Generation X-Tract column for Broadside, the George Mason University student newspaper.
Just about everyone working there is a member of that slacker-ridden race known as Generation X. Just about everyone working there has either a tattoo on their back, arm or forehead, or some sort of eye-catching facial piercing. Just about everyone working there wears all black all of the time and/or smokes like there’s no tomorrow. And just about everyone working there cares more about how hungry they are and what time it is, than whatever CD it is you happen to be trying to find.
Every now and then, a few of the employees will gather outside to smoke their cigarettes or discuss their weekend plans. Occasionally, an employee will venture into the bathroom to pass off ten minutes or so by washing his or her spotless face one or two times. But more often than not, Tower employees can be found either behind the register, ringing up the endless line of strange customers with various sorts of quarries and problems, or working in the aisles, ready to help the next shopper at the slightest sign of cluelessness.
It is easy, however, to pass these young men and women off as deviant youth, whose employment at Tower acts only as a necessary tool to train them responsibility and to keep them out of trouble. It is easy for these workers to fool unsuspecting patrons with their sluggish demeanor, friendly smiles and helpful words. Customers fail to notice the tired eyes behind the smiles and assume that these young people with yellow necklaces that say “I Work Here” slung around their necks are living only for the opportunity to help customers find songs with no titles and bands with no names. One never thinks to question what else is going on inside the skulls of these young faces.
Yet everyday, the average employee of Tower Records crams in a few hours of running register, shelving CDs, and pricing videos in the hope of earning enough modest funds to keep the charge card collectors at bay and to keep their hunk-of-junk automobiles running well enough to get them to work. Between classes, the employee travels back and forth from campus to Tower, clocking in and out, and wondering whether he or she will find the time to write that weekly one-page English paper or whether they must, once again, bite the bullet and accept an unflattering “F.”